A hard-earned medal and trophy for Big Sky resident Julie Brown. Photo courtesy Julie Brown

Local woman takes second place at national physique competition

Big Sky’s Julie Brown earned 2nd place in Bikini Open in the National Physique Committee’s Big Sky Championship competition in Missoula. She qualified for Nationals that take place Miami with the finish. If she wins Nationals, she goes to Los Vegas. She’s done seven competitions and placed three times – once in high school, a 5th place in bikini and recently her 2nd place finish and Nationals qualifier. 

She has started mentoring other local women interested in amateur bikini competitions including yoga instructor Candace Van Buren. 

“I wanted to do a bikini competition my whole life so I sought her out and she is absolutely amazing,” Van Buren said. 

It has not always been an easy road for Brown. She is approaching six years post a trauma-induced stroke that kept her competing for a few years. She battled back and feels great. 

“I really didn’t expect the rollercoaster of life, but it’s been fun,” she said. “Fitness, I describe as a snowball. You’ve got to keep it going.” 


How will you prepare for Nationals?


Preparing for nationals consists of a regular workout program usually six days a week, scheduled lifting as well as cardiovascular and healthy eating. Consistent nutrition – abs are made in the kitchen. 


What is the most difficult thing about the sport? 


I would say really consistency in the beginning is the most difficult for me. It’s very common for people to go online and get a workout program or a temporary diet plan or workout with a trainer. If you don’t have consistency and accountability, it is really hard to do it consistently enough to see results. It is math. When you set up the plan and help people be consistent. People get motivated to get started and when they can start seeing results: boom, that’s when it takes off. Consistency is key to success. 


How did you start competing in NPC fitness competitions? 


My earliest memory as a kid. I remember kneeling down watching a fitness competition. I remember saying, “Mom, I want to do that.” I did get started doing gymnastics but the responsibilities of being the oldest child delayed the gymnastics training. In high school, I actually had unhealthy lifestyle habits and gained a bunch of weight. I was heavy at 20 years old – heavy for me was 180 pounds at 5’4”. I found this woman at the gym who was a trainer, worked with her for three months and lost 50 pounds. It blew my mind how easy it was to make those changes. That’s why I became a trainer in 2011. In 2015, I started competing. The reason there was a big delay there is because in 2013, I had a trauma induced stroke. I was fit and healthy, but due to outside trauma I had a stroke and had to learn how to walk and brush my teeth again. I spent the next three years recovering. I did so well [with recovery] that they told me I could move forward with competing. 


Are you mentoring other women in the sport? 


I work with prep coaches that have either judged or competed in nationals while I am experienced in amateur bikini competitions. 

There is another woman Kim Greenough and she has a fitness team called Team Hush. She has been helping girls that are brand new to fitness competitions do their first shows. The great thing about working with a team is you meet other girls who are nervous and new to the sport. 

I am mentoring Candace Van Buren right now because I don’t have a team in Big Sky. I am in the process of setting up a system to help girls get started as well. I am working with Kim because she has a very structured way of doing things. 

Candace has a food plan, so I invited her to my house. We weighed out all the meat, all the carbs. Sometimes you need a little bit of help to get started. 

We both have similar workouts. Kim is helping her. We just workout together. Most importantly, I’m super excited. I want to start doing posing clinics here in Big Sky. As coaches, we hold posing clinics because you could have the best body, but if you don’t present it well, you won’t place. Anybody, fitness or not, can learn how to pose. Grab a pair of heals, wear whatever you want and come on down. 

New girls are just so appreciative and just so happy to be there. It is so fun to have that camaraderie. One of the differences between men and women is that with men, their fitness divisions are divided by weight where women are divided by height. Candace and I don’t compete against each other. But, the one instance where we would is if I win my height class and she wins her height class – then we go against each other for the overall. 

The best overall either takes home a battle axe or a sword, which is awesome. 

If you’re looking for help and don’t know which direction to start, reach out to me by email: juliebrownforeverfitness@gmail.com

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